Ohio Car Insurance Laws: What You Need to Know


If you’re involved in a car crash, the expenses involved can be huge. Fixing your car is expensive enough, and the bill skyrockets if someone gets hurt. That’s why we have auto insurance. It can cover the costs of a wreck so that you don’t have to. Of course, not all insurance is created equal. Let’s take a look at Ohio’s laws on car insurance.

Ohio’s Financial Responsibility Law

All states have some form of financial responsibility law that requires drivers to carry liability insurance coverage. The Ohio Revised Code Section 4509.101 prohibits any person from operating or permitting the operation of a motor vehicle in Ohio without maintaining proof of financial responsibility continuously throughout the registration period with respect to that vehicle, or in the case of a driver who is not the owner, with respect to that driver’s operation of that vehicle. That’s a lot of legalese that boils down to the fact that you’re legally required to have auto insurance.

Ohio Car Insurance Coverage Requirements

The law requires insurance coverage in the minimum amount of $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one individual in any one accident, $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more individuals in any one accident, and $25,000 for injury to the property of others in any one accident. Effective March 23, 2015, a person can present proof of financial responsibility through use of an electronic wireless communications device as defined within the code section. That means you can show your proof of insurance on your smartphone and you don’t have to worry about keeping that little slip of paper in your glove compartment.

Know Your Coverage

Do you have comprehensive coverage or just liability? Comprehensive means you carry coverage over both your vehicle as well as the statutory liability coverage for other vehicles. Do you have minimum limits or higher? The type of car insurance coverage you carry is important for a variety of reasons. It determines whether your personal property will be covered in the event you are involved in an accident and are at fault. It determines if and to what extent you will be covered if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or “underinsured” motorist and he or she is at fault. Finally, the type and amount of coverage you have determines how much you might have to pay out of your own pocket to any other party involved in an accident if you are at fault.

In Ohio, even if you are at fault for the accident and you have a comprehensive policy, your carrier will pay out up to your coverage limits regardless of your fault, contingent upon any applicable policy exclusions.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists

While Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage is not required in Ohio and can cost a little extra each month, it can be a sound investment. Why does that extra coverage matter?

Example 1:

Assume that you were hit by a young, single mother who has very little income and carries only the minimum limits required by law, $25,000. Now assume your medical bills are $50,000, and you have been off from work due to your accident-related injuries for six months. This is where underinsured motorist coverage kicks in. Whatever you have designated for your coverage above that $25,000, your carrier will pay out. That way you’re covered even though the other driver’s insurance isn’t enough.

Example 2:

Assume you were driving toward a traffic signal when the light turned red. You slowed down to stop. However, the man behind you drove along with no car insurance as he texted and slammed into the back of your vehicle. You sustained property damage in excess of $10,000, medical bills in excess of $9,000, and you were out of work for four weeks. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your own insurance will cover the damage. If not, you’ll have to sue him to try to collect reimbursement for your expenses.

Remember that in both of the above hypotheticals, your insurance company will require you to assign your rights to sue the responsible parties over to the insurance company. In other words, the insurance company will take over your right to sue.

What to Do Before an Accident — and After

Before you or your family member is involved in an automobile accident, you need to be prepared.

  • Always ensure you have your insurance card with you when you are driving. If you give permission to someone to drive your vehicle, make sure that individual carries his or her own insurance coverage.
  • Remember that your car insurance follows the vehicle. So, even if you give your friend permission to operate your vehicle and they carry their own coverage, in an accident, their coverage is secondary to yours! What does that mean? If your driver was at fault, your insurance coverage will pay out first, then their coverage pays any remainder.
  • After an accident, the first priority for everyone is medical attention. Obviously, if you are involved in or witness to a serious accident, and are capable, call 911.
  • If there are no immediate medical emergencies, you should make a record: take photographs of all vehicles, and the surroundings, including any traffic signals, intersections, conditions of the road, etc.
  • Once you have photographs, get the insurance information of the other drivers involved in the accident. With today’s technology, snap a photo with your phone. Then, prior to leaving the scene if possible, contact that insurance carrier and confirm that the driver is indeed covered. Many people may have an insurance card for insurance coverage that has actually been suspended due to non-payment. It is better to know this at the scene so that you can make the police aware of the fact. Remember, in Ohio, failure to comply with the financial responsibility law can result in civil penalties, including, but not limited to suspension of driving privileges.

It’s always best to be prepared before an accident. To make sure you have everything you need, check out our Car Crash Kit and Checklist. It’s a handy guide for everything you’ll need after an accident.

What If I Don’t Have Car Insurance?

Even if you do not have insurance, you still have rights. If you have been involved in an automobile accident and the party who was at fault has insurance, contact their carrier immediately to make a claim. Keep track of your damages, your medical bills, and any other expenses you have sustained as a result of the accident. If their insurance company does not seem to be cooperating, you always have the option to sue. You can file a lawsuit against the at fault driver regardless of whether you have insurance, as long as you file your case within the statute of limitations.

If you or someone you know has sustained injuries or damages to your personal property resulting from an automobile accident, in Ohio you have two (2) years from the date of the occurrence. Once the statute of limitations has run, you will be barred from bringing any claims. So it is important to do research and talk to a professional if you have any questions before your time runs out.

We Can Help

If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Ohio, we can help. Contact us today for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys.

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